Just last week the Supreme Court of the United States heard historic oral arguments on the constitutionality of President Obama’s healthcare law. The Court allowed six hours for oral arguments over three consecutive days, something that has not happened since the 1960’s. I was fortunate enough to attend these hearings.
What has become commonly referred to as “Obamacare” by those who oppose the health care reform law, is formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It was passed by Congress in 2010 and has received a great deal of pushback and media attention ever since.
There were several issues being addressed each day, and while the American population as a whole will be affected no matter what the outcome, in some cases, our senior citizens could see their benefits change first. As someone who works with seniors in a long term care facility, I am encouraging those I work with and those I serve to become more educated on this health care legislation.
The debates on the first two days centered on the individual mandate requirement that most Americans have health insurance. The opposing side, consisting of 26 states and led by Florida, argued that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to have the power to compel individuals “not engaged in commerce to buy a product from private companies.” [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”] Those individuals that do not purchase health insurance will be subject to a fine. The government counters this argument by stating that the majority of Americans end up participating in the health care system at some point anyway; therefore, this mandate is a way to better regulate how those services are paid for. 
On the third day, the debate shifted to Medicaid. The PPACA includes a dramatic expansion of Medicaid to include all low-income Americans, and the 26 states led by a Republican majority argue that the law’s expansion of Medicaid to cover more low-income individuals and families is unconstitutional. Essentially, states would be given the option to expand their coverage or not receive Medicaid funding at all. While states are not forced to participate in the Medicaid program, currently all of them do. The result of this particular decision will have a huge impact on each individual state. If the law is not overturned, the states will incur at least $20 billion more in the next decade to cover Medicaid costs, which will be crushing to the annual budget.  Otherwise, they will lose all of their Medicaid funding. As the Director of a Supportive Living facility that accepts residents on both private pay and Medicaid, this issue hits close to home.
So what do you think? Is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act constitutional? Do you think it will be upheld or overturned? The audio or the transcripts of the hearings are available online – so I encourage you to familiarize yourself with both sides and the points they both bring to the table. We can expect a decision to be announced at the end of the current session of the Supreme Court, most likely in late June.
Director of Covenant Home of Chicago